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ASUS EN7800GT TOP Silent - GeForce 7800GT
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Date: Apr 04, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Shane Unrein
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Introduction, Specs & Bundle

 

Silent computing and overclocking are two topics that tend to be mutually exclusive.  Typically, when you overclock something, like a graphics card for example, it needs more cooling, which in turn means higher fan speeds and more noise. Luckily though, there are some companies that disregard these notions and give us both lower noise and increased performance.

The company in the spotlight today for doing just that is ASUS.  The product getting the attention is the EN7800GT TOP Silent, which is based on the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT GPU.  As you can guess by the name, this is a totally silent card thanks to innovative passive cooling.  And contrary to what you may think, it's also factory overclocked. Even though the 7800 GT has been out for quite some time now, we were still excited about checking out this unique variant of the popular card. The potential for greatness is there; read on to find out if this card delivers.

EN7800GT TOP Silent Specifications
Silent But Deadly?!
GPU Clock: 420MHz
Memory Clock: 1.24GHz (effective; 1.6ns DDR3)


NVIDIA CineFX 4.0 Shading Architecture
_Vertex Shaders
·
_Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
·
_Displacement mapping
·
_Geometry instancing
·
_Infinite length vertex programs


_Pixel Shaders
·
_Support for DirectX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
·
_Full pixel branching support
·
_Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
·
_Infinite length pixel programs


_Next-Generation Texture Engine
·
_Accelerated texture access
·
_Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
·
_Support for 16-bit floating point format and 32-bit floating point format
·
_Support for non-power of two textures
·
_Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
·
_DirectX and S3TC texture compression


_Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline with native hardware support for 32bpp, 64bpp, and 128bpp rendering modes


API Support
• Complete DirectX support, including the latest version of Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0
_Full OpenGL support, including OpenGL 2.0


64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending
_Full floating point support throughout entire pipeline
_Floating point filtering improves the quality of images in motion
_Floating point texturing drives new levels of clarity and image detail
_Floating point frame buffer blending gives detail to special effects like motion blur and explosions


NVIDIA Intellisample 4.0 Technology
_Advanced 16x anisotropic filtering (with up to 128 Taps)
_Blistering- fast antialiasing and compression performance
_Gamma-adjusted rotated-grid antialiasing removes jagged edges for incredible image quality
_Transparent multisampling and transparent supersampling modes boost antialiasing quality to new levels
_Support for normal map compression
_Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates
_Fast z-clear


NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
_Designed to enhance the performance of shadow-intensive games


NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0 Technology
_DVC color controls
_DVC image sharpening controls


NVIDIA SLI Technology
_Patented hardware and software technology allows two GPUs to run in parallel to scale performance
_Scales performance on over 60 top PC games and applications
NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
_Adaptable programmable video processor
_High-definition MPEG-2 and WMV9 hardware acceleration
_Spatial-temporal de-interlacing
_Inverse 2:2 and 3:2 pull-down (Inverse Telecine)
_4-tap horizontal, 5-tap vertical scaling
_Overlay color temperature correction
_Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window
_Integrated HDTV output


Composited Desktop Hardware Engine
_Video post-processing
_Real-time desktop compositing
_Accelerated antialiased text rendering
_Pixel shader-driven special effects and animation

Advanced Display Functionality
_Dual integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including 2048x1536 at 85Hz
_Dual DVO ports for interfacing to external TMDS transmitters and external TV encoders
_Full NVIDIA nView multi-display technology capability


Advanced Engineering
_Designed for PCI Express x16
_Designed for high-speed GDDR3 memory


Operating Systems
_Windows XP/XP 64/ME/2000
_Linux
_Macintosh OS X


ASUS Unique Features
_ASUS Splendid Video Enhancing Technology
_ASUS GameFace Messenger
_ASUS GameLiveShow
_ASUS GameReplay
_ASUS Video Security™ Online
_ASUS OnScreenDisplay (OSD)


Software/Game Bundle

_ASUS DVD
_CyberLink MediaShow SE
_CyberLink PowerDirector
_Driver CD
_King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
_Savage
_BillyBlade
_Second Sight
_Mashed
_Chaos League
_PowerDrome

Accessories Bundle
_Multi-language manual / install guide
_Speed Setup install guide
_DVI-to-VGA adapter
_VIVO cable
_PCI Express power cable
_CD wallet

    

ASUS has been really generous with its high-end card bundles lately, and this one is no exception. When we opened the box, we were happily surprised by the amount of goodies inside. The EN7800GT TOP Silent comes with a user manual, quick install guide, VIVO cable, PCI Express power cable and DVI-to-VGA adapter. An S-video cable and second DVI-to-VGA adapter, however, are unfortunately absent.

The exciting aspect of this bundle is the software. In addition to ASUS DVD, CyberLink MediaShow and CyberLink PowerDirector, the package also includes seven games, including the relatively popular and successful Peter Jackson's King Kong. The two bundled "Bonus GAMEPACKs" include the following games: Savage, BillyBlade, Second Sight, Mashed, Chaos League and PowerDrome. Some of those aren't very well known, but ASUS has definitely included something for everyone.

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The ASUS EN7800GT TOP Silent

 

By now, you are all probably familiar with the 7800 GT, so we won't go into detail about the GPU itself. Instead, we will focus on what ASUS did to make this card special. First off, ASUS bumped up the core clock from 400MHz to 420MHz. Stopping there would be too easy though, so ASUS also decided to use 1.6ns DDR3 chips instead of the standard 2.0ns chips. The 1.6ns Samsung chips are rated at 600MHz, but ASUS went ahead and bumped them up to 620MHz. That means that the EN7800GT TOP Silent's memory runs at an effective speed of 1.24GHz out of the box. Note that the NVIDIA's reference 7800 GT have memory clocked in at 1.0GHz. Now, let's take a look at the second major aspect that makes this card special: the cooler.

The ASUS EN7800GT TOP Silent
Look, Ma! My Cooler Rotates!

  

A big slab of metal and some heatpipes -- that's what we usually find on a silent card. It's not quite that simple for the EN7800GT TOP Silent, which is currently the most powerful silent card available. While it does employ a heatpipe design, it breaks the typical mold by allowing the user to rotate the top section of the cooler 90 degrees. This is part of ASUS' patented SilentCool technology.

  

You can see that the heatpipe runs through the top part of the cooler into an array of fins. When rotated, it should hover directly above your CPU cooler, which should help pull heat away from the fins. It's a clever design, but many enthusiast-level CPU coolers will be too tall to allow a full 90 degree rotation. Don't worry though; the card will work fine without rotating the top part at all. Most of our testing was done without rotating the cooler.

  

The 7800 GT also requires a supplemental connection to system power via a 6-pin PCI Express power connector. When we flip the card around, you can see the dual DVI connectors and the VIVO/HDTV-out connector.

While the cooler is a little bulky due to the top rotating portion, we still think the EN7800GT TOP Silent would be a great candidate for SLI. Rotating the cooler would most likely be out of the question for the second card. Well, you could rotate it some, but there wouldn't be much point. This card (in single and SLI setups) might not be ideal in some systems where space is limited, but it should work fine in most.

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Our Test System & 3DMark06 v1.02

For testing the EN7800GT TOP Silent, we used an Athlon 64 3800+ processor on a DFI LANParty NF4 SLI-DR motherboard. We also used 1GB of low latency Corsair DDR (TWINX1024-3200XL) and a 120GB Maxtor SATA hard drive. The EN7800GT TOP Silent was compared to a 7800 GT with reference clocks and an ATI Radeon X1800 XL.

HotHardware Test System
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Cards -



Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drive -

 

Hardware Used:
AMD Athlon 64 3800+

DFI LANParty NF4 SLI-DR
nForce4 SLI chipset

ASUS EN7800GT TOP Silent
GeForce 7800 GT
Radeon X1800 XL

1024MB Corsair XMS PC3200 RAM
CAS 2

Integrated on board

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9

120GB - 7,000RPM - SATA

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-




Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -

DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Professional SP2
nForce Drivers v6.82
DirectX 9.0c

NVIDIA Forceware v84.17

ATI Catalyst v6.3


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
X3: Reunion
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
F.E.A.R.
Quake 4



Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
Futuremark recently launched a brand new version of its popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests but also Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail, and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted, and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

As you can see here, the overclocked EN7800GT TOP Silent of course outperforms the reference clocked 7800 GT. It also tops the X1800 XL by a considerable margin. This is just a synthetic benchmark, though.  So, let's move on to the game benchmarks to see how well the EN7800GT TOP Silent performs where it truly matters.

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Splinter Cell: CT v1.5

 

Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.05
Details: http://www.splintercell3.com/us/

SC: Chaos Theory
Based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, enhanced with a slew of DX9 shaders, lighting and mapping effects, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is gorgeous with its very immersive, albeit dark, environment. The game engine has a shader model 3.0 code path that allows the GeForce 6 & 7 Series of cards, and the new X1000 family of cards, to really shine, and a recent patch has implemented a shader model 2.0 path for ATI's X8x0 generation of graphics hardware. For these tests we enabled the SM 3.0 path on all of the cards we tested. However, High Dynamic Range rendering was disabled so that we could test the game with anti-aliasing enabled (a future patch should enable AA with HDR on the X1K family). We benchmarked the game at resolutions of 1,280 x 1024 and 1,600 x 1,200, both with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering.

The EN7800GT TOP Silent bests both the 7800 GT and X1800 XL by a respectable amount, especially when anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled. With 4X AA / 8X aniso though, the EN7800GT TOP Silent doesn't distance itself from the X1800 XL by as big of a margin. If the X1800 XL were overclocked too, it would probably show at least equivalent performance to the ASUS card.

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X3: Reunion Demo

 

Performance Comparisons with X3: Reunion
Details: http://www.egosoft.com/games/x3/info_en.php

X3: Reunion
Many of today's popular benchmarks are based on First Person Shooters (FPS), so in an effort to mix things up a bit, we have some performance data recorded using Egosoft's X3: Reunion demo. The X3 game engine makes use of DirectX 9.0 class pixel shader and lighting effecting to produce the images in the game world. Egosoft recommends a 1.7GHz or higher speed CPU be used with the game in conjunction with at least 512MB of RAM and a video card with at least a 128MB frame buffer. Gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of Origin's Privateer / Wing Commander games, which is a welcome break from the myriad of shooters on the market today.

The top performer here when AA and AF are disabled is the EN7800GT TOP Silent card, but the X1800 XL wins the crown by about two frames per second with 4X AA / 8X AF at both resolutions. It's interesting that even an overclocked 7800 GT can't hang with an X1800 XL when the eye candy is cranked up.

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F.E.A.R. v1.03

 

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R.
Details: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R.
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.03, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Since this is such a demanding game, benchmark runs were completed at resolutions of 1024 x 768, 1280 x 960 and 1600 x 1200, with and without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

After a slight setback in X3, the EN7800GT TOP Silent flexes its muscles again to offer considerably better performance than the X1800 XL here. The fact that the EN7800GT is overclocked is what helps put it at the top.

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Quake 4 v1.1

 

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

NVIDIA powered cards typically offer better performance in Quake 4 than ATI's, and you can see that's the case here. The EN7800GT TOP Silent shows up the X1800 XL by a few frames per second at both resolutions.  The standard clocked 7800 GT lagged behind the XL though, proving the EN7800GT Top Silent's increased clocks give it the edge here.

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Overclocking the EN7800GT TOP Silent

 

We can't end this review without some overclocking, even if the card is already overclocked "out of the box." Most companies don't go all out on their factory overclocks. That's our job. After installing Coolbits, we started pushing up the core and memory clocks and checked for graphical anomalies along the way. Recall that the EN7800GT TOP Silent is already running at 420MHz for the core and 1.24GHz for the memory. We were able to take it up a bit further and reached a core clock of 460MHz and memory speed of 1.3GHz.

Overclocking the EN7800GT TOP Silent
(Silent Fast Video Card) + Overclocking = Still Quiet But Faster Card!

 

 

The EN7800GT TOP Silent was already impressive to us before we tried to overclock it, so seeing it overclock this well just makes it that much better. We don't recommend overclocking this card, though, unless you happen to have really good system cooling. The GPU already gets very hot, and the stock performance is more than adequate. Keep in mind that when overclocking, each individual card will show different results, so count on your overclocking experience being different from ours.

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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: We were very pleased with the EN7800GT TOP Silent's performance. The card should outperform all reference 7800 GTs and it can do so silently. The factory overclock definitely helps put it above your average 7800 GT and X1800 XL. Overclocked 7800 GTs and X1800 XLs would be able to hang with the EN7800GT TOP Silent in the performance department, however, but they most likely won't be passively coooled.

We're happy to see such a high-end silent card hit the market, but it seems to be very scarce right now. In fact, it almost seems non-existent.  After checking several of the largest online retailers and even some smaller ones too, we didn't find the EN7800GT TOP Silent available anywhere. Part of the reason for lack of availability must be due to the market presence of the superior 7900 GT. It would be great to see ASUS follow up soon with an EN7900GT TOP Silent. We are crossing our fingers for now.

As we mentioned before, while the rotating cooler might be innovative and unique, in many high-end systems, rotation just might not be possible for various reasons. Regardless, the cooler does its job just fine.  At idle, the Forceware driver panel reported the GPU temperature at around 53oC. Under load though, the GPU was hitting as high as 95oC. It's hard to imagine the card remaining stable at that hellish temp, but we had absolutely no issues with stability whatsoever.  ASUS' 3-year warranty should also help calm any fears you have about the card failing prematurely.

We can't help but think that the EN7800GT TOP Silent is a perfect card for high-end HTPCs that will be used for gaming as well as regular HTPC duties. HTPC users typically go for quiet components, so this card fits quite well on the HTPC system build list of the silent PC enthusiast who also demands performance. There are plenty of passive, 0dB video cards you can choose from, but none currently offer the gaming performance of the EN7800GT TOP Silent.

If you like big bundles, ASUS has you covered there too. The EN7800GT TOP Silent comes surrounded by one of the most well rounded bundles we've seen. It's not all great stuff, but most of it is decent. Add that to the card's factory overclock, VIVO capabilities and unique ASUS features, and it's hard not too like this card. If you want the best silent 3D performance available without watercooling, then this is your card. We're giving the ASUS EN7800GT Top Silent an 8.5 on the Heat Meter.

• High Performance @ 0dB
•  Nice bundle
•  Adds no noise to your system
•  VIVO
•  Factory overclock
• Poor Availability
• Gets hot!

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